📚🚀#GROWTHsnacks: The Two Value Propositions of B2B SaaS
Today’s growth snack discusses Skip Miller’s concept of having more than one value proposition (VP) in B2B sales motions, where the user buyer is not the same person as the economic buyer.
This will provide some insight into the importance of enabling your teams about multiple VPs regularly — whether they are focusing on new logos, expansion, or renewal efforts.
In his book, Selling Below and Above the Line, and his latest one, Outbounding (which I will cover later on), Miller states that buyers do not buy features and capabilities but rather buy outcomes.
He then introduces a conceptual line that splits the sales motion into two different personas with two different value propositions. Below The Line (BTL), you’ll find the “user buyers,” and Above The Line (ATL), you will find the executive buyers or “economic buyers.”
BTL Outcome — Focuses on Features and Benefits
This part of the motion focuses on how your product can solve an already budgeted problem right now, or how it can make the user's life easier and better and help them progress their careers.
The BTL buyers have a list of needs and decision criteria and are more affected by the product's day-to-day use. In many cases, when talking with this persona, sales teams focus on detailed product knowledge and why they should be the selected vendors. Sometimes — they win. According to Miller, many organizations train and enable sales teams about features and capabilities — because it’s simpler, easier, and works OK.
However, when selling to mid-market organizations and up, the technical buyers will often not make the decision alone. They will need the approval of several other people in the organization, including the most important one — the one that approves the budget.
ATL Outcome — Focuses on the Need for Change
The ATL buyer has already decided that the status quo needs to change, allocated a budget for this change, and asked the user buyer to execute it. When we understand that it’s the ATL who initiated the buy, we start looking for a different set of outcomes that they are looking to get out of using the product.
So what do they care about?
The ROI they will achieve by using your product to change what they are currently doing. They have their own goals, like decreasing the budget by 20%, getting the product out on time before the holidays, building a new team to open a new market, or improving sales or manufacturing by 20%. They need to learn how your product can help address at least one of these — if not more.
The ’Cause and Effect Split’
Rather early on in the sales cycle, there is a split, where the BTL outcomes are no longer the only ones that matter. The ATL outcomes need to be addressed as well — in order to close the deal, or better yet — maximize it.
Effects are a list of needs that are important to BTL buyers. They determine which product they will recommend internally.
Cause provides motivation and the energy for the sale. Find out what’s causing the ATL buyer to allocate resources and funds to this purchase.
Both parts of the split are important to close the deal. These two outcomes are rarely addressed in one presentation. And for a good reason — these two outcomes are desired by two very different audiences within the company.
Bringing BTL and ATL buyers together at the right time is key
By the time you get to the stage where you offer a proposal, you want to make sure that you have had a chance to cover and present both the ATL and BTL value propositions. If you reach this stage without having the ATL on board — it’s going to stall the deal. At this point, the deal is out of your hands; you usually need to negotiate hard for the price to draw the energy your way and hope you get lucky.
This is why you want to make sure that by this stage, you have answered everyone’s questions:
BTL: Does your product fit our purpose? Is it what we’re looking for? For example — can the truck get in the alleyway?
ATL: Does it contribute to help saving money, time and lowering risk? Can it contribute to the change we’re making? For example, will one truck be enough to ship all we can manufacture to meet our new revenue goal?
Listen to or read the book to learn more on how Miller suggests you do that.
How does this concept affect B2B SaaS retention efforts?
If you are in the B2B SaaS business, chances are that you are constantly investing in renewal motions. In this business model, both the BTL and ATL value propositions are being reassessed by customers all the time. They need to decide to buy your product time and time again.
At the same time, new budget and strategy decisions on the ATL side may come up quite often. This is especially true during the pandemic when budgets are tight, needs are changing dramatically and rather quickly, and many champions are changing positions.
This emphasizes the importance of constantly communicating the value and ROI to both BTL and ATL customers — and not just around the time of renewal. It also means that customer success, renewals, and expansion teams, need to be fluent in both VPs to support their motions. In a sense, it’s a good way to mitigate some of the effects of champions leaving - because the value is being communicated continuously to the economic buyer and the rest of the users.
In the past year, I paid more attention to this concept when it comes to enabling new logo teams and recently began emphasizing this when enabling the rest of the teams. I think that helping customers measure value regularly and continuously communicate it throughout their organization is a key cross-functional growth lever that can significantly move the needle.
I will be happy to share results and best practices over time — as always, I would love to hear your thoughts, here or on Linkedin.
Until next time,